Thelonious Monk

We See [Dreyfus]

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The half-dozen recordings on this 10" record have appeared in innumerable variations under perhaps as many titles. They are derived from elements of Thelonious Monk's second and third sessions -- as a bandleader -- for Prestige in November of 1953 and May of the following year, respectively. This era of Monk's recordings is notable as the bridge between his association with Blue Note -- which had concluded in 1952 -- and his most prolific period for Riverside -- commencing in 1955. "Let's Call This" and the second take of "Think of One" are from the November 1953 date and feature Monk (piano) backed by Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Julius Watkins (French horn), Percy Heath (bass), and Willie Jones (drums). The remaining tunes present Frank Foster (tenor sax), Ray Copeland (trumpet), Curly Russell (bass), and Art Blakey (drums) from the May 1954 session. Despite some outstanding improvisation between Rollins and Watkins, neither track from 1953 really gains sufficient headway to be primal. That said, they should not be considered as failures either. "Let's Call This" has an easy syncopated rhythm that seemingly fails to inspire the quintet. "Think of One" however, drives a bit harder and includes a few additional off-kilter accents from Monk as well as a somewhat telepathic sense of timing between him and Rollins. What the first pair of selections may have lacked is considerably recouped on the final four pieces. The styles and moods range from the frenetic "Locomotion" and "Hackensack" -- the latter of which is more than just casually reminiscent of "Straight, No Chaser" -- to the sublime and refined cool of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," which is the only cover tune on the disc. Monk enthusiasts are best served by the three-CD Complete Prestige Recordings in order to gather these tracks -- as well as the other five sessions -- that the pianist participated in during his brief tenure with the label.

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